NEW YORK (AP) — Corey Fisher scored a career-high 26 points and Mouphtaou Yarou had 13 points and 16 rebounds to lead No. 7 Villanova to an 82-70 victory over UCLA on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Wildcats (5-0) will face No. 24 Tennessee in the championship game Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Volunteers beat Virginia Commonwealth 77-72 in the other semifinal.
Villanova’s three-guard offense that also includes Malik Wayns, who had 19 points, and Corey Stokes, who had 16, got the Wildcats the lead with a game-opening 8-0 run and they were never headed with Yarou taking care of things inside.
Malcolm Lee had 13 points for the Bruins (3-1), while Lazeric Jones had 12 and Reeves Nelson had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Villanova closed the first half with a 14-2 run to take a 44-29 lead. Fisher had six points in the spurt and Wayns had four. The Bruins were their own worst enemy during the run, not making a field goal over the last 5:30 and committing five turnovers.
UCLA was able to get within eight points four times midway through the second half as Villanova started the half making four of its first 20 shots from the field. But each time the Bruins seemed ready to make a big run, the Wildcats answered to get the lead back to double figures.
The fifth time the Bruins got within eight they scored to get within 58-52, but they hurt themselves at the free throw line.
UCLA made 11 of its first 12 free throws in the game. Once the Bruins got within six with 7:53 to play, they made just two of seven attempts over the next two minutes and Villanova took advantage to start opening the lead again. UCLA never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
The Wildcats kept their assist-to-turnover ratio on the plus side in the early season. They had 11 assists and seven turnovers against UCLA, making their season total 87 assists to 46 turnovers.
This was the Wildcats’ 17th straight win in November.
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